New England’s No. 1 farmers’ market returns to the green

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MONROE, CT — Now that local farmers’ crops are ready for harvest the Monroe Farmers’ Market can begin. The market, voted the best in Connecticut and New England last season, will open on the green at the corner of Fan Hill Road and Church Street this Friday.

“We always start a little later than most and I’m fine with that,” said Kelly Plunkett, the market manager. “The focus has always been on being a traditional farmers’ market. We’re a Connecticut grown market. Anything that’s agriculture related, whether it’s livestock, flowers, fruits and vegetables, it has to be grown in Connecticut.”

Monroe’s 15th Farmer’s Market will be held every Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. on June 17 through Oct. 21.

The farmers’ market has more volunteers and more venders than last year.

“We have 26 vendors this year, including five new ones — all right around the gazebo,” Plunkett said.

Among the new vendors are Fiery Magnolia, a flower business; Fatto a Mano, an Italian artisanal micro-baker; New Curds on the Block, a cheese monger; Bell’s Fishery with clams and oysters; and Muggers Marrow, which has organic/vegan sauces and marinades.

There are also some new offerings from the market’s regular businesses.

“Guardians Farm will be adding milk, butter and cheese and Addeo’s Italian Ice will now be bringing cheesecakes, tiramisu, carrot cake and expanded ice flavors,” Plunkett said.

One popular vendor that is not coming to the green this year is Vic’s Guac, whose owner, Victoria Demitri, is out on maternity leave after giving birth to her son. Last season, Plunkett said a gender reveal was done at the farmers’ market.

New sponsors this year are New York Life, Monroe Insurance Center and E-Bration.

Assistance for seniors

Because the Monroe Farmers’ Market is 100 percent Connecticut grown, the Monroe Senior Center can provide $18 from the state’s Senior Farmers Market Nutrition program for those in need of financial assistance, according to Plunkett.

She said the money can be used for purchases from all of the farmers at the market, adding Monroe has 10.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to match or add to those dollars,” Plunkett said of a grant the town received around two years ago.

Though the grant was not renewed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Plunkett said the Monroe Farmers’ Market has been able to provide the match.

A schedule of events

Special Events this year include Pickle Fest on July 15, National Farmers Market Week on Aug. 12, Tater Fest on Sept. 16 and the Market Goes Pink on Oct. 7, in partnership with Think Pink Monroe, a grassroots organization providing assistance to breast cancer patients, spreading awareness of the disease, and promoting preventative care.

In an online contest by the American Farmland Trust last year, the Monroe Farmers’ Market was recognized as Connecticut’s Number One Farmers Market, was Number 1 in New England and Number 3 in the country.

“We won $1,000 for programming,” Plunkett said. “We get to decide how to spend it. I’m working with someone now for a children’s program to be announced.”

She said the idea is to engage kids with fresh produce. In the past, the Monroe Farmers’ Market has had challenges like a Selfie-Scavenger Hunt. For example, participants would have to do things like take a photo with a farmer, with a red vegetable or of themselves trying a micro-green.

“Now we’re looking to create and build a dedicated program for the kids to increase awareness of agriculture,” Plunkett said.

Plunkett praised Kim Meachen, the farmers’ market’s longtime entertainment coordinator, for doing an “amazing job” of choosing artists to perform over the years.

This Friday, Griffin Anthony, a musician who has performed at the Monroe Farmers’ Market for over a decade, will provide the entertainment.

“He’s a national recording artist and we just adore him,” Plunkett said. “We’re excited to have him for opening day.”

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